French group completes buy of U.S. hydro operator FirstLight

French utility group GDF Suez announced December 29 its Suez Energy North America unit completed the acquisition of U.S. hydropower operator FirstLight Power Enterprises from Energy Capital Partners.

Suez first announced plans in September to buy Connecticut-based FirstLight, the former NE Energy Inc. (HNN 9/2/08) FirstLight owns 13 hydroelectric plants totaling about 1,265 MW and other power plants, all in either Connecticut or Massachusetts.

Although financial details were not disclosed, French industry sources said in September the deal would be worth 1.3 billion euros (US$1.91 billion).

With the acquisition, GDF Suez Energy North America is now the fifth largest electricity generator in New England. In addition to FirstLight assets, the company has six renewable and gas-fired generating assets in the region, as well as retail electricity sales to large commercial and industrial customers, and liquefied natural gas sales to nearly every gas utility in the region.

Suez Energy North America owns or operates 61 power, cogeneration, steam, and chilled water facilities, including those in construction, representing more than 7,500 MW.

FirstLight operates 11 conventional hydro stations on the Shetucket and Housatonic rivers in Connecticut and on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts totaling about 167 MW. It also operates the 1,080-MW Northfield Mountain pumped-storage plant in Northfield, Mass., and the 29-MW Rocky River pumped-storage plant in New Milford, Conn. It also has 263.3 MW of natural gas and coal generation in operation or advanced development. The company has about 235 employees.

The FirstLight power plants previously were owned by Northeast Utilities. Energy Capital Partners, a private equity firm, purchased Northeast Utilities’ competitive generation business in November 2006, including assets totaling 1,442 MW, for $1.34 billion. At that time, Energy Capital Partners provisionally named the newly formed company NE Energy Inc.

The hydro plants include:
o NU subsidiary Connecticut Light &Power Co.’s former Western System on the Housatonic, Bantam, and Still rivers, including 8.4-MW Bulls Bridge, 29-MW Rocky River, 43-MW Shepaug, 28.9-MW Stevenson, 320-kW Bantam, 10.2-MW Falls Village, and 600-kW Robertsville;
o CLP’s former Eastern System on the Shetucket and Quinebaug rivers, including 2-MW Scotland, 1.8-MW Taftville, and 2-MW Tunnel; and
o Northfield Mountain group on the Connecticut River, including 1,080-MW Northfield Mountain, 53-MW Cabot, and 6-MW Turners Falls.

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